Today the Pittsburgh Pirates made a big wave of cuts, including optioning first baseman Andrew Lambo to Triple-A. That leaves Travis Ishikawa as the only first baseman on the active roster for the other half of the platoon with Gaby Sanchez. However, Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington didn’t exactly say that Ishikawa has the job when asked about the platoon today.
“As we sit here today, yes, that would be the indication,” Huntington said on Ishikawa. “But we’ve got until Monday before we need to finalize anything.”
Ishikawa is getting notice for his good Spring Training. However, that’s only 24 at-bats, and his career numbers against right-handed pitching aren’t much better than what Garrett Jones did last year. Throughout his career, Ishikawa has basically been the 2013 version of Jones, with better defense. That’s not a bad option for a depth player, but it’s not who you want to go with on Opening Day.
“Travis had a nice Spring,” Huntington said. “He gives you good quality, professional at-bats, handles himself around the base, and if that’s where we end up, then we’ll be comfortable with that.”
Neither quote from Huntington was a huge endorsement for Ishikawa. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pirates end up making a trade before they finalize the rosters on Monday.
As for Lambo, he will go to Triple-A and play first base. Huntington said that the decision to option him was more about the offensive struggles than his work at first base.
“Andrew exceeded expectations defensively, and showed up very well there,” Huntington said. “Offensively, the results obviously weren’t there. He faced a lot of fastball count off-speed pitches, and in our minds, the right thing to do to get him back on track was to have him start the season in Indianapolis.”
The problem with sending Lambo to Indianapolis is that he’s already had success at the level. If he goes to Triple-A and starts hitting again, then the Pirates haven’t really learned anything, except that he can hit Triple-A pitching. Eventually they’re going to have to give him a shot in the majors to see how he does against Major League pitching. For now, Huntington said that the move to Triple-A will allow Lambo to “take a deep breath.”
“Get back to being the guy that we believe he’s going to be,” Huntington said on Lambo. “Hit fastballs to all parts of the field. Stay through off-speed pitches. And get back to the confident hitter that does damage in the box. Sometimes guys try to do too much. It seems like that certainly was the case with Andrew this Spring. We still believe in him. But to believe as of March 31st the switch is going to flip, and guys can all of a sudden change some things on day one, we felt the best way to get Andrew back on track was to go ahead and send him out.”